Why Fitness is the one thing that has really worked for me in helping me manage PCOS.
Fitness is my happy drug! Being fit solves a lot of problems when they arise. When I'm fit, I feel confident, attractive, calmer and on top of things. It costs me way less to be fit than to correct the problems that result from a lack of fitness.
Being down, stressed, anxious, lacking in confidence, feeling unattractive, having to deal with PCOS symptoms, have all cost me dearly in the past, not just financially, but socially and in my career.
Sitting in medical waiting rooms is a waste of my precious time, and although I still have to be there occasionally, would rather spend that time in the gym, or at a Fun Run and not have to pay out lots of money for scripts that I can live without. It's hard work though. I still put on weight easily if I can't or don't get my particular diet/exercise formula right. Sometimes getting up and working out is a big hassle...it hurts and sometimes you just don't feel like it. But, feeling bad about myself and depressed is worse.
What the doctors say is true: "Exercise and diet!" BUT, the information they give is often not specific enough. After I lost all my weight, I was amazed how many doctors asked, 'so how'd you do it?' They were wanting advice for other patients who, like me, swore black and blue that they had tried everything.
For me, many answers to my PCOS problems came from learning more about how my body works! The most important changes I made were:
I use a heart monitor during aerobic exercise to ensure I was reaching a high enough heart rate for the duration of my session. Previously, when walking or doing pilates or yoga, my heart rate was way slower than what ended up being effective for me in weight loss.
During my weight loss period, I needed to be working at around 120 - 160 beats per minute for around 30 minutes to make any difference. I didn't find this overly difficult and was able to achieve this by walking up hills and eventually needed to jog to keep my heart rate high enough.
For many years, I wasted a lot of time in exercise by not getting my heart rate high enough during my sessions. Even if I had made this one change, I could have avoided many years of being overweight and unhappy. (The maximum heart rate you should be working at is about 225 minus your age. Try to work at around 60 - 80 per cent of that figure for the duration of your session. If you are very unfit, you may achieve this by just walking. If you are like me and have some exercise background, just walking on flat ground may not be enough to achieve a high enough heart rate.)
Strength training: I work with reasonably heavy weights in 'compound' exercises, i.e., working several muscles at once, using large muscle groups (not isolated, smaller muscles). For example lunges, chest press, seated row, etc (2 sets of 12 - 15 repetitions).
I followed the principal of Progressive Overload and continually increased weights when I could achieve both sets at the one weight. This is very important in fitness, as your body adapts to exercise and must be continually challenged!
Diet: I eat smaller portions of food very regularly throughout the day with an emphasis on Low GI foods, lots of fruit and vegetables, and low fat/low sugar foods generally. Basically I ate a very balanced, healthy diet with small treats.
When I was big, I tried to avoid all treats. Now, I eat much smaller portions of food and can now enjoy a small treat every day. I find not having to deprive myself of treats helps me stick to a healthy diet overall.
(I followed the Weight Watchers program, although with all the exercise I was doing, I was always able to eat more food than allowed and still lose weight. So much for the girl who always told everyone that it was extremely difficult for me to lose weight!)
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